In the UK right now, people over 60 make up 23% of the UK population. This post looks at some options for supporting the senior loved ones in your life and helping them live their lives in the best way possible.
As the average life expectancy increases (currently 80.90 years), it is vital to know how to support loved ones in this part of their life to help them retain a good quality of life.
Knowing what will make the most difference when looking after an ageing parent or relative can impact their lives positively. This will help them retain independence and live how they want to with the support they need.
Spend Time with Them
Before you look at how you can help, spend time with them and learn what they need, and their challenges. Then you will know how you can make things easier for them.
Make it a point to visit your Senior loved one regularly. Include themes in family activities so they don’t feel isolated and disconnected from you or life. Even if you can’t physically visit due to distance, you can still use technology to help you stay in contact. Video calls, telephone calls and connecting digitally are good options when you cannot visit face-to-face. Don’t make this feel like a chore; integrate your lives so you can see them regularly when it suits everyone.
Loneliness is often touted as a silent killer amongst the senior community as this is the time of life when people become or feel more isolated and experience more significant changes to their lifestyle than likely any other period. This can impound existing issues they might already have or impact them significantly when they retire. Being there for them can help you to eliminate this problem.
Just because a person is of retirement age, it doesn’t mean they are automatically unable to do anything for themselves. Far from it, many people live full and active lives past 60 and can be healthier and fitter than their younger counterparts.
However, housing options can be somewhat of a touchy subject if you notice that your loved ones are struggling to live alone or they aren’t quite as capable as they once were.
When discussing living arrangements, you need to be as assertive as possible and broach it to ensure they don’t feel pressured to do anything they don’t want to do. Not all seniors need to move out of their homes; some might find comfort living in senior living accommodations or adapted accommodations, while others might need around-the-clock care in nursing homes or medical facilities to provide them with what they need going forward. Always be aware of what they need to assess their ability to live in their current accommodation before making any changes.
Increase Mobility Aid Usage
It’s only natural for people to experience a decline in mobility as they age, and while this can vary from person to person, introducing mobility aids at the right point can help senior people who are struggling to retain their independence a bit longer.
Mobility aids come in all shapes and sizes, from handrails for navigating stairs, shower seats to help people keep on top of hygiene easier, installing ramps, using walking sticks and wheelchairs or even a mobility scooter to help them get out and about. Talk to experts like mobility2you to help determine what your loved one needs to support them and how best to implement these aids into their home.
Check the home for any modifications they may need, such as widening doorways for wheelchair access, using non-slip mats in showers and wet rooms, using pull string for lighting instead of switches, automating lighting or installing motion-sensor lighting, reconfiguring furniture, making sure cables aren’t in the way, removing trip hazards like rugs in the events frequent falls and so on. The easier it is for them to live in their home, the happier and more comfortable they will be if they are experiencing mobility issues or health conditions, reducing their ability to get around.
Always be aware of any medications your loved ones need to take and where they are with taking them and refilling their prescriptions. If they need to take medication for severe health conditions, knowing what they are taking can help you to get the proper treatment for them if they need it and ensure they don’t run out of any medications.
Help them by setting up automatic prescription renewals with their GP, or even talk to their doctor (with them) about being a healthcare proxy and allowing you to make decisions on their behalf or take charge of their healthcare if they cannot. You will need to visit their GP to ensure it is done legally, and you can make decisions and carry out actions like accessing test results or discussing medications for them.
Have prescriptions set up to go directly to a nominated pharmacy when they need to be refilled and ask the pharmacy if they offer a delivery service; this removes the need to physically collect the prescription from both the GP and the pharmacy, making it easier to ensure the supply does not run out.
While there is no upper age limit for driving in the UK, if your loved one does drive, this should be assessed regularly, especially if they are experiencing changes to their physical ability or cognitive function. As we age, our reactions are naturally slower, and it takes us a fraction longer to react to situations at times. Again, this can be different for everyone. Some people are perfectly fine driving up to their 90s, while others need to stop driving at a younger age.
Always talk to them about their driving and ensure they discuss this with their doctor regularly to ensure they are physically capable of driving. While statistics show that Senior drivers over the age of 70 are no more dangerous than young drivers, this should still be monitored as people over the age of 70 are more likely to be seriously hurt if they are involved in a car accident and are at greater risk of death or serious complications than younger drivers.
Encourage Them To Be Active and Social
A sedentary lifestyle for anyone is dangerous, but this can be even more so for older adults. Not moving much or at all will cause muscles to waste away and joints to become compounded, causing more pain and impacting mobility.
Talk to them about joining local community groups or social events with people they know or support groups and senior communities in the local area. Find ways to help them stay active by walking, swimming, hitting the gym, or doing home chair-based exercises together. The more active and social a person is at any age, the more their health will improve.
To keep the mind and body sharp, encourage them or get out and talk to people or even play games, learn something new or do brain games with others. Socialisation and learning can help to improve memory, slow down mental decline associated with age, boost mood and ward off depression.
Help for senior people who need it can come in many different ways. There are many agencies that supply home help or home care assistants who can visit your loved ones and help them with daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, hygiene, shopping, etc. When you can’t be there or if you don’t live close enough.
Other options, if this doesn’t suit them, include hiring cleaners, for example, to take over the cleaning of their home, or you can order their shopping online so they don’t have to worry about navigating a supermarket or having a handyperson visit to take care of small tasks like changing light bulbs, garden maintenance, minor repairs and so on.
Look at the areas they are struggling with and hire appropriate support.
Use Resources Available
As mentioned earlier, many charities and organisations are set up to support seniors in the UK. Using these resources; along with those supplied by the NHS and local authorities, can help you get the right support. It might be that they are missing out on certain benefits you didn’t know they could claim. Things like practical help and support from charities that are there to assist with things like shopping and transport. It may even be extra help so that the older generation can learn new skills like using technology to get about in the world more accessible than before.
Find out what’s available in your local area or theirs if you don’t live close by, and talk to them about what they can access to help them at this point in their life.
Supporting elderly loved ones means playing an active part in their lives. This is so you know exactly what they need and can get them the help they need when they need it. Be as involved as possible. Or as involved as they would like you to be without infringing on them too much. Try not to take over; instead, be there when they need it. Look for ways to improve things, not take control.